Bankrupt Stories

It is a sad thing for poor human nature that the innocent and unpretending should always prove the easiest and surest prey to the knavish and humbugeous portion of mankind; like natures so far from proving attractive, always repel each other, and humbugs of every kind receive their chief countenance and support from the open hearted and sincere part of the community.


Jeremiah's early education had been sadly neglected, and he had fallen into a loose habit of looking upon all men with nearly the same feelings; regarding none so bad but there might be some extenuating circumstances in his conduct, nor no one so good that he might not be a good deal better.


A man's conscience having no vote, and being without any political influence whatever, can never be a safe tribunal for an American citizen to appeal to.

What is it that attracts me so much to the works of Charles Frederick Briggs? I'd have to say that his observant eye, and his sardonic style, form a chemical bond which transforms, through interjection, his otherwise mundane prose into delightful entertainment. Although he was most popular in his time for Harry Franco [1839], and later most notorious for Tom Pepper [1847, 1850], upon belatedly reading Bankrupt Stories (a.k.a. The Haunted Merchant) [1843] I have decided that the middle novel is actually the better of the three. Hence my current effort to bring out a digital edition.

Inspired by Dickens, this fable of fallibility starts out deceptively saccharine and slapstick, almost putting one to sleep, but for the author's occasional ironic asides. Yet, one must be patient, as he is setting the stage and putting the central pieces in place. Then, as the various characters each find a unique path in life and death, the enthralling trainwreck begins. Not exactly "Addams Family," but the novel manages to mix both humor and tragedy into a cautionary tale.

I used this scan of the 1843 edition as my primary source, with this scan as a backup. The typesetting is not the best quality, and I have found myself correcting numerous errors, and have also standardized the use of single vs. double quotes, and apostrophes, as well as hyphenation or breaking of certain compound words. Chapter numbering is also corrected. Spelling is trickier: where a word is spelled consistently throughout the book, it is generally kept that way; where a word is spelled one way earlier in the novel and another way later on, all instances are changed to the later spelling. Where a word appears just once, its spelling is usually retained. The names "Keckhaussen" and "Keckschnipen" are left as is, though they seem to refer to the same character.

So here it is: the master HTML version, the home-brew Kindle version, and the actual Amazon publication.

As the son of Judge Hupstart says: "I should like to feel the operation of some spirits too and no mistake."

January 2, 2021

ffred's nearly-forgotten treasures